Plants may serve as reservoirs for human-associated bacteria (H-AB) in long-term space missions containing bioregenerative life support systems. The current study examined the abilities of five human-associated potential pathogens, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Pseudomonas cepacia, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, and Escherichia coli, to colonize and grow in the rhizosphere of hydroponically grown wheat, a candidate crop for life support. All of these bacteria have been recovered from past NASA missions and present potential problems for future missions. The abilities of these organisms to adhere to the roots of axenic five-day-old wheat (Triticum aestivum L. cv. Yecora rojo) were evaluated by enumeration of the attached organisms after a one hour incubation of roots in a suspension (approximately 10(exp 8 cu/ml)) of the H-AB. Results showed that a greater percentage of P. aeruginosa cells adhered to the wheat roots than the other four H-AB. Similarly incubated seedlings were also grown under attempted axenic conditions for seven days to examine the potential of each organism to proliferate in the rhizosphere (root colonization capacity). P. cepacia and P. aeruginosa showed considerable growth. E. coli and S. aureus showed no significant growth, and S. pyogenes died off in the wheat rhizosphere. Studies examining the effects of competition on the survival of these microorganisms indicated that P. aeruginosa was the only organism that survived in the rhizosphere of hydroponically grown wheat in the presence of different levels of microbial competition.